The upcoming 2011 January Tampa FUN Signature & Platinum Night US Coin Auction features what is probably the finest New Orleans twenty of any date. Easily the finest known 1852-O double eagle, this Gem has been off the market since the early 1970s, when our consignor purchased it through a private treaty transaction with Stack's.
This coin has long been unavailable for study by most modern researchers, although Doug Winter was aware of it when he wrote the first edition of New Orleans Mint Gold Coins: 1839-1909 in 1992. At that time, Winter considered the specimen in the Dallas Bank Collection the finest known 1852-O, with this coin listed in the number two spot. Like the present coin, the Dallas Bank specimen had only been examined by a few specialists during the 1990s.
After the collection was sold in 2001, Winter had the opportunity to view the coin, and he determined that the present specimen is actually superior to the Dallas Bank example. Jim Halperin, Co-Chairman of Heritage Auction Galleries, had the opportunity to study this coin many years ago, and he always believed it was special. Halperin states that this coin is "By far the best condition New Orleans twenty I have ever seen." Discounting the SP63 PCGS 1856-O double eagle, a coin that many consider a full proof, no other New Orl eans Mint twenty has been certified in any grade above MS63 by NGC or PCGS.
In 1852 the New Orleans Mint produced a generous mintage of 190,000 Liberty Head double eagles, largely due to the influx of gold from the California gold fields. Because of its substantial mintage, the 1852-O is one of the more available Type One double eagles from the New Orleans Mint. Winter estimates a surviving population of 900-1100 pieces in all grades. Most examples seen are in lower circulated grades, and the issue becomes scarce in AU55 and quite rare in Mint State. Due to the availability of the 1852-O in AU, the date is always in demand from mintmark type collectors, seeking a high grade example for their collections.
Of course, the Miller collection coin is in a class of its own as a condition rarity. No 1852-O double eagle of comparable quality has been offered at auction since the Dallas Bank specimen came on the market, nearly a decade ago. In 2006, a PCGS graded MS62 specimen realized $48,875 as lot 5580 of the Denver Signature Auction in 2006, but even that coin clearly lacked the quality of this magnificent Gem, which grades a full three points higher.
As the finest known specimen of the date, with claims to the title of finest New Orleans business strike double eagle, it might be fair to compare this coin to the finest known specimens of other issues offered at auction recently. Considered as a date, the 1852-O is not in the same rarity category as the 1856-O, the classic rarity of the series, but the rarity of the 1852-O in MS65 is just as great as the rarity of the 1856-O in SP63.
Both issues are represented by just one coin in these respective grades, the finest known specimen of each date. The PCGS graded SP63 example of the 1856-O sold for 1.4 million dollars when it was offered as lot 1989 of the Long Beach Signature Auction in May 2009. Another landmark O-mint issue, the NGC graded AU58 1854-O double eagle, has sold for $675,000 at private sale. Clearly, the sky is the limit when a coin of such surpassing quality and rarity is offered, and we expect epic competition when this lot is called.
The surfaces of this spectacular Gem are vivid greenish-gold, with hints of rose in the fields. Vibrant, satiny mint luster radiates from the obverse devices--but the surfaces also display areas of prooflike reflectivity, especially on the reverse. All design elements are sharply rendered, with full star centrils, and fine detail on Liberty's hair. The only pedigree markers are a small, mint-made planchet flaw by IT in UNITED, and a few insignificant marks by the second A in AMERICA. This coin has been off the market for nearly forty years, and it may be decades before collectors have an opportunity to acquire this piece again. As the finest known example, no other coin can provide the connoisseur with an equivalent pride of ownership. This specimen should take its place in the finest collection of Southern gold.